Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

Basic HTML Version

I pointed, to the jamb
where I had tacked the doorpost prayer
hidden in its small bronze case
to consecrate the house. I said
that is the holy letter Shin,
that is the secret name of God;
inside are praise and promises.
Sirs, when you see that talisman
you really ought to skip that house.
After staring at it they do indeed go away, but the reader’s
eye should linger, for Shapiro has inverted the historic skipping
over in Egypt by the angel of death and has the Christians pass­
ing over instead. Shapiro’s traditional
’ juxtaposition
of door, prayer, case, hidden letters, threshold, and passing over
may be the most overt instance of the
in American-
Jewish poetry, but other covert examples suggest that we really
ought not to skip the house of Jewish fiction and poetry. Indeed,
many Jewish writers may refer to the
subliminally (or
under the threshold) where it has been buried in their collective
One of the earliest American examples of the hidden, indirect
approach to the
is Emma Lazarus’s sonnet, “The New
Colossus” (1883), which appears on the Statue of Liberty.
Not the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome, her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
The leap from the biblical injunction “you shall write them upon